Read More

I’m not going to beat around the bush: it’s my birthday today and I want a present from you.

I want you to give me a question. Ok, technically you don’t GIVE a question, you ASK a question, but it’s MY birthday and I will butcher the English language however I want.

So, I would like to request a question from you.

About what, you ask?

Anything.

I’m curious to know if you could ask me anything, what would you ask?

Here’s what will happen if you ask a question: I’ll give you an honest answer.

I realize this is a little risky, and it’s definitely not a typical kind of post for me. Maybe nobody will ask a question and I’ll end up looking silly for thinking anyone would. Maybe I’ll get a thousand questions that will take me three weeks to answer. Maybe I’ll be stumped by your questions. Maybe you’ll think my answers are totally nuts.

But for some crazy reason I thought this would be fun. Birthdays should be fun, don’t you think? Have I told you it’s my birthday?

Here’s how to ask me a question:

Ask your question in the reply section after this post. That way if I DO get a thousand questions, it won’t clog up my inbox. In fact, the blog is only place I’ll answer any questions this week.

Thanks! Let’s have some fun!

 

About mark henson

Mark is the founder of sparkspace...the most inspirational business retreat center on the planet. His blog is read by thousands worldwide each week. Mark's passion is sharing ideas that help people live and lead a rockstar life.

  • Martyn J Wood

    Happy birthday Mark; now that you have sparkspace what is the next great adventure for you and how will you know that it is specifically for you?

    • Martyn,

      Ironic (or coincidental?) that the very first question is the question I have been grappling with myself for at least a year and half. I have many interests, but still haven’t been grabbed by one tightly enough to pull me in any specific direction.

      To be honest, it has been very frustrating at times. I know there’s something out there that needs me, I just don’t know what it is yet. What I have learned, though, is that sometimes these things take time and it’s ok to hang out for awhile and watch/wait for that next thing.

      I do know that “adventure” itself is part of my DNA and I need it to feel fully alive. I have committed to creating more opportunities for adventure in 2015. For me that means more travel, more relationships, and getting out of my comfort zone more often.

      Thanks!

  • Cathy

    Happy Birthday Mark! Enjoy your day!
    My question… If you could have lunch today with anyone that would fill your “inspirational tank” for the next year, who would that be & why? 🙂

  • birthday party guest

    happy birthday, mark!…your birthday present from me: what is the first thing you would do if you wanted to reinvent yourself?…let’s say you were always showing up for everyone else and now you want to show up for yourself…focus of your passion…your purpose…interested to hear your thoughts…

    • This one is easy to answer, because I do it often.

      I’d retreat by myself for several days. Personally, I like to go to the woods. There’s something about nature that helps reset everything for me. For others it’s the beach or mountains or NYC.

      I actually do this a few times per year. I get to travel some for work, so sometimes I’ll take an extra day or two in a different city to work on my purpose, priorities, etc. Gotta love my wife for supporting this (she thinks it’s absolutely necessary for me to do…and she’s right).

      This is ESPECIALLY important if you’re always showing up for other people and now need to show up for yourself. You absolutely need some “me time” to focus on yourself, recharge your batteries, etc.

      When I first started doing this, the guilt was overwhelming. How could I leave my family for a few days and spend time and money on just me? It wasn’t easy, but the more I did it, the easier it got because I saw the POWER in it. Now it’s a normal part of how I live and work.

      I can’t encourage it enough.

  • Brian

    Happy Birthday!! What is your favorite piece of clothing that you own?

    • My wedding ring. 2nd place is my purple suede wing tip shoes.

  • Joy

    Happy Birthday Mark! It seems like you have great chemistry with your employees, how did you find the right people to get the job done that also create a great environment?

    • Thanks, Joy!

      You are correct, I have GREAT employees. I’ve had mostly good/great employees over the years. Right now is an especially great time. I’d have to say the secret – if there is one – is actually not in who you hire, but who you fire. I have gotten better and better at weeding out the people who don’t belong. It still takes me way too long to get rid of someone who doesn’t fit, but I have found that the faster I do it, the faster my company gets better.

      One of the keys is to be very clear about what fits and doesn’t fit on your team so those decisions almost make themselves.

      So to sum it up, my philosophy is hire good people, pay them well, give them as much flexibility as you possibly can, require high performance, make the workplace fun and and stress-free, and get rid of people who don’t fit as quickly as possible.

  • Christina

    Happy birthday! First, thank you for the wealth of information you share with your readers. I am grateful! Second, my question: What one piece of advice would you give someone going out on their own and starting their own business?

    • Make sure you’re an entrepreneur and not just an unhappy employee. Some people are cut out to be entrepreneurs, some are much more satisfied working for someone else. Neither is better, unless you’re pursuing the wrong path for you.

      I wrote a whole article on this because I believe very few people are really wired to be their own boss: http://sparkspace.com/realemyth/

      So, are you starting a business? If so, doing what?

  • Deanna

    Happy Birthday, Mark! So, if it’s true what Thomas Edison said, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work,” what is the most valuable lesson YOU have learned while sorting through the many “ways that don’t work”?

    • Deanna,

      Thanks for the question. I think the most valuable lesson has been the realization that it’s that process of trial & error that always leads to the greatest results. When people ask me how I figured out something or how I created something, my answer is always the same…because the process is always the same: “I pushed buttons until something worked.”

      Probably the greatest single lesson I’ve learned in business (by having enough failure in this area) is to fire people more quickly (or as I like to put it, “Release them so that they may flourish somewhere else.” I’ve found that keeping a bad fit around never improves them, it only keeps proving they are a bad fit.

  • Tai

    Happy Birthday!! What was your most memorable Christmas gift as a child and why? (So many great questions below already!!) Have a great day, thank you for all that you do!

    • When I was about 5, I wanted to be a ventriloquist, so my parents bought me a dummy that Christmas. To this day, the smell of certain kinds of plastic remind me of that dummy’s head.

      Alas, I never mastered the ability to speak without moving my lips. Not sure I ever really mastered speaking WHILE moving my lips, either, now that I think about it.

    • When I was about 5, I wanted to be a ventriloquist, so my parents bought me a dummy that Christmas. To this day, the smell of certain kinds of plastic remind me of that dummy’s head.

      Alas, I never mastered the ability to speak without moving my lips. Not sure I ever really mastered speaking WHILE moving my lips, either, now that I think about it.

  • Mike Clouse

    Happy Birthday Mark! 😉

    Have you every found yourself at a place in your life/career in which you want to take action in effort to be a true agent for positive change…but a bit unsure as to what action truly needs to be taken? I have thoughts, ideas and feelings around what needs to happen…but a piece of me holds back for fear that there is something missing that I don’t know. Or what if I am wrong? (Which right there is a great coaching question I need to process for myself)

    I don’t want to be paralyzed and inactive due to fear. I don’t want to charge ahead erroneously and cause more damage and stress than already being realized. What do you do, and how, when you need to step back and look at things objectively to decide the best course of action when it may not be very obvious?

    • Mike,

      Sounds like classic “paralysis by analysis.”

      I heard a great phrase this week that I’m considering adopting as a personal mantra to get me past similar thinking obstacles:

      THINK BIG. ACT FAST.

      I truly believe most great things happen via the ready-fire-aim-fire again approach rather than the ready-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim-aim-fire approach that most people take.

      There is almost no single action or decision you can make or take that you can’t recover from (and usually way more quickly than you imagine) if it turns out to be a mistake.

      The problem with making sure your ducks are all in a row before you act is that ducks really don’t stay in a row very long anyway no matter what you do.

      • Mike Clouse

        Think big. Act fast. Definitely outside my comfort zone…but I believe you are correct. In this case I may have missed on the “act fast”, but I can certainly “act faster”!

  • Liz

    Happy Birthday Mark! So a fun guy deserves a fun question or at least a bizarre one that will make you smile on his birthday.

    If you were a tomato on top of a salad, how would you get off?

    I once was asked this question at my first interview out of college. I know my potential employer was curious to see how I would answer, if I was creative, if I stayed collected/calm, etc. It threw me but I think I handled it okay.

    • I would pray to God with every molecule of my tomato body that the salad had been ordered by Mark Henson, because he HATES tomatoes and ALWAYS takes them off.

  • Jazzy Jan

    Have you ever danced in the rain? Happy Birthday, Mark!

    • Yes! My high school girlfriend and I were hiking and got caught in a torrential downpour. Thankfully it was a very warm day and the rain was also warm. We sang and danced and had a truly magical couple of hours in the rain. One of the most memorable days from my teenage years for sure.

      Thanks for the question that made me remember it!

  • Allen Lloyd

    Happy Birthday, if you could say just six words that every person on the planet would hear what would you say?

    • Don’t take yourself so frickin’ serious.

  • Connie Chwan

    Happy Birthday Mark.
    Be sure to eat lots of birthday cake – licking the icing off your
    fingers is optional! So, here is my question: What do you think about the
    concept of viewing time on a vertical plane rather than on a horizontal
    continuum?

    • Connie,

      There will be no birthday cake. My birthday tradition is Key Lime Pie (my favorite dessert). I will have an ungodly amount of whipped cream on top, though, which is like the icing of Key Lime Pie.

      I’m not sure asking existential questions on my birthday is fair. I did say ask anything, though. I like the idea of time on a vertical plane because there’s nowhere to go but up.

      I have been thinking a LOT lately that there really is only this moment. Pretty sure the rest of my life will be a never-ending quest to live in the moment as much as possible.

      • Connie Chwan

        Hi Mark,
        I’m with you on the Key Lime Pie! I asked the question because someone asked me yesterday, which led to a great discussion. The concept of a vertical timeline is that we cannot recreate the past and the future has yet to be. So, as you said, we can only live in the moment and use each fleeting moment to be the best we can be. We can never do more.

  • Dave

    What is your favorite car?

    • If money was no object: Maserati. They make my heart go boom.

      My favorite cars I’ve ever owned: A Ford F-150 pickup (my first car) and a Honda Element (which had a giant sparkspace logo on it).

  • Jeff H.

    How does one summon the courage to pursue one’s passion? And how do you figure out what the heck it is anyway?! (and yes, I know that’s two questions.)

    • Jeff,

      I’ve struggled with the passion question myself, even recently. I used to think your passion was that “thing” you want to pursue for the rest of your life. I’ve come to discover that passions can come and go. My passion when I was twenty was to be a radio personality. My passion at 32 was to start sparkspace. My passion right now is to create unprecedented simplicity in my life and work.

      As for the courage to pursue one’s passion, I can offer you two quotes that I heard in the same week fifteen years ago. I was having a hard time pulling the trigger on starting sparkspace. I had the idea, I was super excited about it, and had even done a ton of work to “get ready” to start it. But I wasn’t starting it for some reason. Well, one reason: fear.

      Then I I heard these two quotes. I jumped off the fence and never looked back:

      “What would you attempt to do if you knew you could not fail?”

      I noodled on that for 3 days, unfortunately focusing more on how I might fail. Then I heard this one:

      “Leap and the net will appear.”

      So I leapt. I always say I leapt and started weaving my net on the way down. The funny thing is that when you do that, you rarely, if ever, need the net.

      Hope this helps. Do you have a passion in mind?

      • Jeff H.

        First of all, hats off to you for how you chose to spend your birthday. Mine will likely be spent in my PJ’s being far less productive.

        You are right. Fear is a stone cold killer. And yes, you helped.

        I have a number of passions that are taking shape in the form of business ideas, but have not yet crossed the threshold. But it will happen at the right time.

        Part of being an explorer or a renaissance man is having faith that the universe will point the way.

        Perhaps we should compare notes.

  • Shawn Wolfe

    Happy BD Mark!
    I’d like to know the coolest way you’ve ever seen a client use sparkspace…type of client, type of activity, purpose…whatever struck you as cool. It is, as you know, YOUR birthday.

    • Well, since it’s MY birthday…

      In our first year of business, an adoption agency used sparkspace as a place to transition adopted babies from birth mom to the adopting family. I didn’t even know it was possible, but this particular agency facilitated face-to-face meetings between the two. They wanted a place that felt more warm, comfortable, and home-like than a sterile hotel conference room. It was a very emotional time for everyone involved and I would like to think our environment helped make that moment easier for everyone.

      This was extra special for me because I’m an adopted child, too. I doubt I will ever see a more cool or meaningful use of sparkspace.

      • Shawn Wolfe

        Way cool and better than I even expected. I can see why they chose sparkspace, though. Thank you for sharing!

  • Jill

    Happy birthday! What is your one big regret, or dream that is still deferred?

    • Hmmm. Those are two different things.

      My biggest regret is that I feel like I’ve missed many opportunities to be a better father to my kids. My wife would slap me for saying that because she would say I’m being too hard on myself and she’ll claim that I’m a great father. But the truth is, there are many moments where I could have been a better example or made wiser choices or been a better listener or less selfish.

      The good part (I suppose) is that I know this about myself and I am constantly trying to be a better dad and a good role model and I still have a few years with them in the same house. Every stage of parenting requires such different skills, I really wish I had a manual, but I think I missed the day they passed those out at dad school. 😉

      As for the dream that is still deferred: I desperately want to own a cabin or a beach house. For two reasons: I want to escape often and enjoy disconnection from the real world with my family in a place we can call our own. AND I want to share it with friends, family, and people who would might not be able to afford a really nice vacation or getaway. I watched my parents exercise this kind of generosity with a condo they owned in Traverse City, MI. As a guy who loves hospitality, this has always appealed to me. I’m getting closer to achieving this one, by the way! Maybe even in 2015!

      • Jill

        Thank you. Secret…they didn’t hand out that manual in mom school either.

  • Krista Sanford

    Happy birthday!! My question is…what do you absolutely know for sure?

  • Jason Elliott

    Happy Birthday Mark. I love the gift you are giving yourself (or more specifically asking all of us to give you). I love the list of books that you have provided and I agree with you on many of them, but I was troubled because I didn’t see any fun fiction books on your list. So my question to you is what are your favorite fiction books that you read just for fun? Thanks

    • Thanks, Jason!

      Here’s the deal: I actually love fiction, but I OBSESS over a fiction book when I crack one open. I literally can’t put it down because I need to know what happens next or how it ends. For this reason, I don’t read a lot of fiction, ha ha!

      That said, my mom turned me on to a series by Richard Paul Evans that includes The Walk, Miles To Go, and a couple of others in the series. I liked that series a lot. In fact, I still need to read the most recent book in the series.

      I also LOVE, LOVE, LOVE anything Bill Bryson writes. A Walk In The Woods and In A Sunburned Country are two of my favorite books I’ve ever read. They’re not fiction, but just as entertaining.

      And I recently read Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert. I avoided it for years because I always thought it was a “chick book”, but I really liked it. Probably because her style reminds me a lot of Bill Bryson.

      Good question. Thanks. I got to revisit each of those books in my mind as I wrote the response!

  • Davisson

    Happy birthday, Mark!

    What advice would you give to someone trying to break into a new industry they’ve never worked in before?

    • Pick out the person who would be the most amazing mentor you can possibly imagine. Like so good they would NEVER in a million years have time or interest in mentoring you.

      Then invite them to lunch and ask them anyway.

  • Dale Mueller Smith

    Happy Birthday, Mark!
    What looks new and different about your life, five birthdays from now?

    • 2 Kids in college and all the financial joy that will bring.

  • Luba Gallinger

    BD’s are milestones in life when we often reassess where we’ve been and where we’re going. How do you believe your MOMENT of death will be for you? This is not intended as a morbid question (I know, hard to believe) but one of insight and inspiration, of which you have plenty. I truly enjoy your site.

    • I plan to drop dead at age 100 while running on the beach with my wife (she will also drop dead at the exact same moment). The waves will gently take our bodies from the beach and dolphins will carry us to heaven. I suspect it will be awesome.

  • KAREN

    HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I hope your day is absolutely wonderful! I cant tell you how inspiring your messages are, not only for work use but personal use as well. You are a terriffic guy!
    Anyway, now to my question: if you could be a fictional superhero who would it be? One that exists now or a new one that would be just YOU!
    Have a great day Mark!

    • Batman.

      Money, gadgets, cool cars, the ultimate man-cave, and a suit that makes you look like you have abs even if you don’t.

      Definitely Batman.

  • Andrea

    Happy Birthday Mark! How do you stay so positive and upbeat even when things are not going as planned?

    • A. I’m a go-with-the-flow kind of guy most of the time.

      B. I don’t always stay upbeat.

      C. I try not to complain out loud (too much) when things to wrong. Gives the impression that I stay upbeat, even when I’m not. It’s a variation of the “If you don’t have something nice to say, keep your piehole shut” advice our mothers all gave us growing up. Still works.

  • BG

    HBD! What inspired you to go into your current line of work?

    • I’m a “space junkie”. The chance to create the space I always wanted to work in was too good to pass up. The fact that I could make a living doing it was icing on the cake.

      The company I used to work for had really cool offices. Seeing how our clients responded to our office originally put the idea in my head to create a cool office that companies could rent by the day to get away from their boring offices.

      That was 15 years ago. Thankfully, many companies still have boring offices. 😉

  • Best. Topic. Yet.

    Happy birthday Mark! Two questions: 1) This past summer, you planned, lived and reflected on a sabbatical that is still impacting you. Are you planning a sabbatical for 2015, and if so, what will your expectations be? 2) Also, knowing several of your amazing employees, will you (can you) encourage them to do the same in the next year?

    • Thanks, Rick. It has been extremely fun to read and answer the questions. Might have to make it a yearly tradition!

      To answer your question:

      1) Yes. I will take extended time off again. I don’t know if I have any expectations, but I will definitely have some sort of structure to it this time. Still working on that, but it may take the form of a theme, a specific trip, a project, or topic area.

      2) I often struggle with what to offer my employees. It is difficult to say “I’m going to take 6 weeks off because I’m the owner, but you can’t because you’re an employee.”

      They work hard and they do a great job. But they are also in much different roles and different points in their careers than I am. For one thing, they are “on the clock” and I’m not. Plus, I took my first extended leave after 15 years of running this business (on top of the 15+ years I had spent working other jobs prior to that). My longest running employee has been a little over 4 years with us. That’s a big difference in time invested, etc.

      I try to be extremely flexible and generous with my employees. Truth be told, I don’t track their time off. They technically get a certain amount of paid time off each year, but I have always told them that if they need time off, take it. If they work long hours at certain times, they have my trust to make it up at another time. And I leave it up to them as a team to work out schedules. I don’t lord over the calendar approving or disapproving their requests for time off.

      If someone came to me asking for extended time off for a sabbatical or other purpose, I’d seriously consider it. If we could work it out, I’d try to make it happen. Unfortunately at this point, I can’t offer it across the board as an employee benefit. I only hope the other benefits of working for sparkspace are enough to keep them happy, even if I do take another 6 weeks off in 2015.

      I said if you asked a question, I’d give an honest answer. My employees WILL read this, but I gave you the whole scoop anyway.

      • Mark,

        I’ll definitely “follow along” on you next sabbatical. I imagine it is just like anything else; with enough practice, one can become an expert.

        I agree with your assessment of offering sabbaticals to employees, particularly in terms of career stage. You are setting a great model in place. Based on knowing several of your team, I’ll bet they will creatively figure out how to do it well.

        Enjoy,

        Rick

  • Scott

    Happy Birthday Mark!

    Two questions:
    1) At your ripe young age ;-), what is one thing you do to bring calmness during stressful times (Professionally and Personally)?

    2) What is success and how have you achieved it?

    • Good questions, Scott.

      1) I’ve been blessed with a pretty good sense of humor, which has always been a useful tool to diffuse stressful situations. The only situation where humor doesn’t seem to help is when someone is really, really mad directly at me. Thankfully, I don’t do too many things to make people really, really mad at me.

      2) Success, to me, is being able to say “If I died today, I’d be happy with how I lived my life.” That doesn’t mean every day was uber successful or that I didn’t have any failures or times where I completely crashed and burned. But if I look back at my entire life, overall I can say that I’ve worked well, enjoyed life, and lived in integrity with my beliefs and values.

  • Dawn

    I’m late to the game. Happy Belated Birthday! I hope your day was spectacular and your pie was fantabulous!! My question: if you HAD TO get a tattoo, what would you get and why? Enjoy the rest of your birthday week!!!

    • I’ve had this conversation several times with my family since none of us have tattoos…yet. I’m pretty sure I’ll never get one, but my son seems to be fascinated by them right now.

      If I WERE to get one, it would have to be extremely meaningful. I’ve seen people who get tattoos as a tribute to a loved one who passed away and I always thought that was a great use of a tattoo.

  • Jen

    Happy Belated Birthday Mark. Hope you had a wonderful day and hope you have another wonderful year!

    If you could go back in time, what year would you travel to and why?

    • 1950. I’ve always had a weird love of mid-century architecture, furniture, and design. I know it’s a romanticized era, but it always has seemed to be a time full of optimism, advancement, and coolness.

  • john

    Mark: HappyBday! What would be the question which you would most like to be asked…so that you might respond with a question for us…perhaps a most/very important question for us from you…to Sparkspace ( a verb) during 2015.
    Summary: What/How/When/Where/Why/Whom do you want us to sparkspace 2015?
    jgm

    • Here’s what I’d like to know: Imagine a much older, much wiser version of yourself, no matter your age at the moment. What advice would the older/wiser you give to the current version of you to help you live more fully or effectively right here, right now?

  • vmwiseguy

    Hi Mark, Happy Birthday! My question: If you were a kitchen appliance, what would you be and why?

    • Ahhhh, another easy question.

      I’d be a coffee maker. I pretty much AM a coffee maker anyway, so it wouldn’t be much of a stretch.

  • Debbie

    Happy Birthday, Mark! I have a question I’ve been meaning to ask my almost adult children (ages 26-21). Maybe I’ll get the chance over the holidays. I grew up on Lucy’s ToyShop, Flippo the Clown, RoadRunner and Bugs Bunny cartoons (some of those were pretty violent). Our kids grew up with Sesame Street, Thomas the Tank Engine, Power Rangers and Barney (I love you, you love me… – try to get that ditty out of your head now!!!) Here’s my question – Did they ever find Sesame Street? And if so, what did it look like and what did they find there? Do you have an answer?

    • This might be my favorite question. I was a first generation Sesame Street kid. I always thought it was a little strange. Personally, I think Sesame Street was a drug-induced fantasy. Think about it: grumpy creatures that live in trash cans, vampires that count, humanoid puppets with no ears, and did you see that GIANT YELLOW BIRD????? I swear there was a GIANT YELLOW BIRD here a minute ago!